Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Greatest Generation (Nathan Wagner)

Tonight's entry was penned by fellow WCS teacher/coach/Harding alumni Nathan Wagner. He tells of a wonderful interaction which turned a trip for groceries into a lasting memory.

Last Saturday evening, my wife and I made our weekly trip to the grocery store. We had worked all day and expected company later in the evening. We planned on making a quick stop at the HEB across the street. Somewhere around the strawberries and the peaches, my sociable wife struck up a conversation with an elderly man. He had apparently noticed her Rice t-shirt, and they just started talking. The brief encounter turned into a lengthy conversation about this man’s life story.

He shared with us about his humble beginnings in Tennessee and the love he has for his state. He proudly proclaimed his family’s history of fighting in every war since the American Revolution, and he shed a tear when he recalled his time in the Pacific during World War II. He still weeps for the cousins he served with who didn’t return home. He was proud of the moniker his state maintains, the Volunteers, for their spirit selfless sacrifice and never asking for anything in return.

He told us about the wives of Sam Houston, “that rascal from Tennessee and Virginia,” who left several women waiting as he conquered the West. He let more tears shed at the remembrance of the beautiful words written on one of their tombstones.  He talked about the people he knew and the places he had been. He knew my alma mater because our schools had played a baseball series long ago, and we had a mutual rival in Ouachita. He loves baseball and briefly displayed fatherly pride when he told us that his son had played in the big leagues.  The foulest word he shared was “durn”, and he complimented us frequently. After he recounted most of his life, he asked what he was supposed to do now. I told him he should write a book. He told me he was almost finished with his book. Then he acknowledged that he had been blessed in life. As he told us about his wife, who struggles with Alzheimer’s, I realized that we, greatly spurred by my wife, had done more good in ten minutes of listening than we could have in a month. Sometimes I can be a “Martha,” always wanting to accomplish a task, move to the next, stay busy. I’m glad I wed a “Mary,” someone whose not afraid to slow down and talk with others, to share herself with them.

I told the man thank you before we left. When we lose this generation, we will lose more than the first-hand experience and the oral tradition of our fine country. We lose those who truly understand the value of a hard day’s work, the principle of earning what you want, the concept of respecting women and honoring parents.We will lose the self-respect, determination, and sacrificial spirit that defines the past century. They truly are the greatest generation. And to those of that generation reading this, thank you.

God bless,

Luke 18:1
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